In introducing one section of Margin of Error, the superb and though-provoking new exhibition at The Wolfsonian, a curator writes:
“Where invisible currents are concerned, magic and menace are always intertwined.”
The words are meant to address literal currents — those of electricity — but they also broadly apply to core idea of the show. Overtly the exhibition is about how people coped with the technological advances of the mid-nineteenth and twentieth centuries — the rise of steel, steam-ships, mass-production, planes, trains, etc. — as well as the dangers that came with them (shipwrecks, crashes, explosions, collapses, electrocutions, oh my!). Beneath that, though, there is a grappling with the broader paradox of rapid technological change: that new magic is often paired with new menaces.
While Margin of Error sticks strictly to times past, it’s hard not to think about the effects of Facebook, smartphones, Google, SnapChat, Uber, and their ilk on our present-day lives while looking at the pieces, which range from Italian workplace danger signs to Titanic songs and photographs of factories. Silicon Valley-types may praise “disruption” as something that’s always good, but this show is a reminder that progress has always come with risks as well as rewards.
Margin of Error is showing at The Wolfsonian in South Beach through May 8, 2016. Definitely check it out — and perhaps put that magical and menacing iPhone away while you do.